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Renzo Piano

New York Times Building

The Renzo Piano Building Workshop, was formed in 1980 and has offices in Paris and Genoa, Italy. Some 100 architects, engineers and other professionals are part of the firm, which embraces a philosophy stressing constant building and testing of design ideas ­ a reflection of Mr. Piano’s lifelong passion for construction.

Renzo Piano was born in Genoa in 1937 into a family of builders; his father, four uncles and a brother all were building contractors. While a student of architecture at the Milan Polytechnic School of Architecture, he regularly visited his father’s building sites where, he says, he gained valuable practical experience.

The jury that awarded Piano the Pritzker Prize noted the integration of design and building practices that characterizes his projects, and compared his work to earlier master Italian architects: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Brunelleschi.

“While his work embraces the most current technology of this era, his roots are clearly in the classic Italian philosophy and tradition,” the Pritzker jury said. “Equally at ease with historical antecedents as well as the latest technology, he is also intensely concerned with issues of habitability and sustainable architecture in a constantly changing world.”

Prizes and Acknowledgements
AIA Honorary Fellowship, U.S.A. (1981)
Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal, England (1989)
Cavaliere di Gran Croce award by the Italian Government, Roma, Italy (1989)
Kyoto Prize, Inamori Foundation, Kyoto, Japan (1990)
American Academy of Arts and Letters Honorary Fellowship, U.S.A. (1994)
Goodwill Ambassador of Unesco for Architecture (1994)
Premio Michelangelo in Roma, Italy (1994)
Praemium Imperiale, Tokyo, Japan (1995)
Erasmus Prize, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (1995)
The Pritzker Architecture Prize, The White House, Washington, U.S.A. (1998)
Architect of the National Academy of San Luca, Rome, Italy (1999)
Officier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur, France (2000)
Leone d’Oro to the career, Venice, Italy (2000)
Premio Leonardo, Palazzo del Quirinale, Rome, Italy (2000)
Wexner Prize, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A. (2001)

Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Address: 827 Washington Street, New York, NY 10014, United States
Phone: (212) 400-2302


The American Institute of Architects new Guide to New York City has named Renzo Piano’s New York Times tower at 620 Eighth Avenue the ugliest building in the city, according to the Daily News.

The Times faced stiff competition on the list of uglies from the likes of the T.G.I. Friday’s on Fifth Avenue (number 9) and Trump Tower on East 56th Street (number 4).

The Times own architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff called the building “a paradise by comparison” to the old Times building when it first opened. Not everyone was convinced.

Meanwhile Mr. Piano has been selected to design the new downtown headquarters of the Whitney, so that bodes well?


Renzo Piano Comments on the New York Times Building

“Constantly present in my mind when designing the New York Times Building was that today's architecture should be inspired by what is happening with the climatic crisis. In the way the last [20th] century opened with an interest in rationalism and the modern movement, I like the idea that this century is opening up with a discovery that the earth is fragile and the environment is vulnerable. Fragility, breathing with the earth and the environment, is part of a new culture. I thought the Times Building should have the qualities of lightness, vibrancy, transparency, and immateriality.

As it stands now, the building has a vibrant presence, and seems to breathe as it goes up. We used clear glass and ceramic rods that fragment the light. This makes you feel like you're floating in mid-air while standing in the cafeteria. However, I think next time I will use a ceramic lighter in color. Right now, it looks especially good in the luminous day, but I would've preferred a whiter shade.

At the base, the building almost hovers above the ground. We wanted to have the building engage with the street, with the city, and I wanted the space at the ground level to be joyful. A sense of permeability and participation are important. We especially tried to capture the quality of 42nd street, which has a kind of ephemeral architecture that keeps changing.

I thought the building needed to be well crafted. Craftsmanship is not an additional value but a fundamental one. It's important not to betray the spirit of well-crafted buildings.

Architecture explores and takes risk. Architecture, in general, is a complex matter, intertwined with social life, energy, poetry, art— everything. Today, architecture is a bit too distorted by an obsession with the object. I oppose the idea that a building should be tortured. Things will change. Things go up and down.


Nemo Science Centre in Amsterdam. The shape reflects the tunnel entrance it is built on

Kansai International Airport, Osaka, Japan (1991–1994)

Shard London Bridge, London, UK (2012) (wow....)

The New York Times Tower, New York (voted NYC ugliest building.....)